On 29 June 2020, Uzbekistan adopted Decree No. UP-6013 “On Additional Measures for Improving the Anti-Corruption System in the Republic of Uzbekistan”. The act provides, amongst other measures, for the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Korrupsiyaga qarshi kurashish agentligi, KQKA).
The said agency is subordinate to the President and accountable to Parliament, the status of its head is equal to a minister and that of his/her deputies to deputy ministers.
The established Agency will be responsible in particular for:
- developing and implementing public policy in the area of the prevention of and fight against corruption;
- ensuring the introduction of a system of measures for preventing and countering corruption in public bodies and entities, including standards of conduct, disclosure of income and assets and verification of the submitted information along with the countermeasures against violations;
- analysing the situation with corruption in the country and defining the most common corrupt practices, conducting various research projects, organizing anti-corruption training and implementing other measures aimed at raising public awareness about national anti-corruption policy;
- analysing the effectiveness of anti-corruption controls in public procurement and submitting proposals for their improvement;
- ensuring coordinated interaction between public bodies, civil society and the media, as well as international anti-corruption cooperation.
Against this backdrop, some specific powers are granted to the Agency. It is authorized, in particular, to conduct administrative proceedings against corruption offences, issue mandatory orders for suspending the execution of or annulling the decisions of public bodies in the event that some evidence of corruption is detected in them, and warnings about the inadmissibility of corruption offences and the adoption of the measures to eliminate the causes of corruption and conditions that facilitate it.
In order to implement its functions the Agency together with the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications and the General Prosecutor’s Office of Uzbekistan is planning to shortly launch a special digital platform “E-Anticor.uz” to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the functioning of public bodies and anti-corruption management, develop a mobile application which will make it possible to inform the Agency about the acts of corruption, and to introduce a set of measures to allow the Agency to access the databases of public bodies and entities.
Uzbekistan has joined the ranks of the countries that have established a specialized authority responsible for preventing and fighting against corruption. We have already touched upon* the ACAs in France, Bulgaria (in Russian) and Thailand, whereas the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau of Singapore and the Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong are among the most well-known examples of successful functioning of such structures.
Despite certain advantages of specialized anti-corruption authorities, their establishment and subsequent functioning are subject to certain risks. We have already addressed the fundamental challenges of adopting the decision to establish such structures which include:
- independence: protection against undue political influence;
- specialization: the provision of trained staff with specific knowledge and experience and the appropriate mandate to fight against corruption;
- resources and powers: the staff of the ACAs should be provided with everything that could be needed for effective work;
- political, cultural, social, historical, economic, constitutional and legal peculiarities of a country.
However, even if an anti-corruption authority has been long-established and operated successfully, it is likely that its activities will encounter the resistance of unscrupulous individuals to whom it will “create problems”.
For example, Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi pemberantasan korupsi, KPK) has been traditionally identified as one of the most effective ACAs. By 2018, the KPK conviction rate reached 86%. In addition, since it was established a number of high-ranking officials, including a former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Senior Deputy Governor of Bank Indonesia, leaders of several political parties, ministers and heads of local government bodies have been convicted and arrested on charges of corruption.
However, Law No. 19 of 2019 “On the Second Amendment to Law No. 30 of 2002 “On the Corruption Eradication Commission” has considerably weakened the position of the KPK.
Firstly, the Commission was deprived of its status of a public authority independent from all branches of power and was integrated into the executive branch.
Secondly, the law established a Supervisory Board whose members are appointed by the President among the candidates proposed by Parliament. This body controls the activities of the KPK: from now on the KPK does not have the power of search, seizure and wiretapping without the prior approval of the Board.
Thirdly, the mandate of the KPK in the pre-trial investigation has been greatly restricted. In particular, without officially initiating an investigation the Commission is now unable to: deny the right to exit the country to a suspect; request information about the financial situation, assets and taxes of a suspect; temporarily suspend financial, commercial and other agreements of a suspect; freeze the accounts which can be used for the purposes of money laundering; request competent authorities to issue the authorization to arrest, carry out a search and gather evidence.
All this can lead to a considerable decrease in the number of investigations conducted by the KPK, because under these conditions of limited autonomy the Commission will be simply unable to gather all necessary evidence to initiate proceedings.
In addition, the law stipulates that the KPK should abandon investigation and prosecution if a corruption case cannot be settled within two years since the action is brought. This may imply that many investigations, primarily those regarding large-scale and complex corruption schemes, simply may not be concluded in time. The KPK already counts 16 unsolved cases, the “oldest” of which was brought in 1998.
As a result, as highlighted in a recent report by monitoring anti-corruption NGOs, since the law was adopted the effectiveness of the KPK has considerably decreased and its credibility among the general public has suffered.
Indonesia is not the only example of how the leadership of a country can deliberately weaken the national anti-corruption authority: we have already mentioned the cases of dismissal of a Chief Prosecutor of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate and a Director of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, whose opinions and actions were not welcomed by the leadership of their respective countries.
Therefore, as the experience of the reviewed countries demonstrates, difficulties arise not only at the stage of establishment of an anti-corruption authority: its effective functioning will equally require relevant conditions that would allow it to freely carry out its functions, being protected from any interference in its independence.
* Our Portal also provides a list of different national authorities responsible for the prevention of and fight against corruption (see Countries’ Profiles) and publications focused on the peculiarities of the functioning of anti-corruption authorities (see the respective topic in the Publications).